Fri 28 Feb 2020

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Residents of rural Aleppo fear consequences of Idlib’s military escalation

The Civil Defense volunteers are recovering the bodies of victims from the rubble in the aftermath of Russian and Syrian regime airstrike on the town of Kafrnuran in the western countryside of Aleppo - 21 January 2020 (Enab Baladi)

The Civil Defense volunteers are recovering the bodies of victims from the rubble in the aftermath of Russian and Syrian regime airstrike on the town of Kafrnuran in the western countryside of Aleppo - 21 January 2020 (Enab Baladi)

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Fear and concern aroused among the residents of areas held by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) in northern countryside of Aleppo due to the recent military escalation carried out by the Syrian regime and its allies in Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib and its countryside to wrestle control on both the Damascus-Aleppo (M5) and Aleppo-Latakia (M4) highways. 

Enab Baladi monitored the views of residents of the al-Bab city in the northern countryside of Aleppo, concerning the possible impacts of the military operations in Idlib and reviewed the reasons for their fears.

Mohammed al-Hamid, a displaced person from al-Bab, feared a new displacement wave in the area. If intensification of daily violence continues in Idlib, al-Hamid has no place to secure shelter, especially after being displaced before many times. Therefore, he cannot stand displacement anymore, as he said.

A media activist in the al-Bab city, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that most people in the area and its surroundings are living in a state of constant fear of returning to war. He noted that the area is not stable, and its fate remains unknown.

Abdul Basit al-Zain, a business management student at Gaziantep University near the al-Bab city, pointed out that many people are controlled by a sense of anticipation and confusion about international understandings, and when the Syrian regime and its Russian ally will stop their aggression.

Al-Bab city, controlled by the Turkish-backed “SNA,” is run by a local council supported by Turkey, which has implemented many projects in the area, including social service, educational and medical projects.

Precedent targets

On 2 February, five airstrikes have targeted al-Bab city, east of Aleppo province for the first time since the Operation “Euphrates Shield” that was carried out by the Turkish-backed “SNA” against the “Islamic State” and ended in March 2017. The operation caused minor civilian casualties and fires, according to Osama al-Hajjar, an official at the center of the Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) in the city of al-Bab.

These raids were carried out after the “SNA” fighters launched a battle they called “Burning Determination,” where they targeted three sites for the Syrian regime on the axis of Tadef in rural Aleppo. However, the battle stopped just hours after its launch, leaving civilians in fear of a new escalation of the Russian-Syrian air force on the area.

A member of the “SNA,” who did not reveal his name, believed that one of the main reasons for anxiety and confusion is the weak position taken by the Turkish side through its observation posts that cannot stop the advancement of the Syrian regime forces and its ally Russia.

He added that the opposition factions lost control of many strategic areas like the cities of  Saraqib and Maarat al-Numan, which made many people “fear of what is yet to come.”

Messages to Turkey

On the other hand, the Syrian political researcher, Abdulrahman Abbara stated to Enab Baladi, that every military or security operation targeting the so-called “the Euphrates Shield areas” is an indirect message to Turkey.

He added that this message has only two implications,” the first is a warning to Ankara for its support to the opposition factions in Idlib and an alert to abide by its pledges according to the “Sochi Agreement” regarding Idlib.”

The second implication is a reminder from the Syrian regime that the “Euphrates Shield” areas are just like any other area that is outside of its control, is not immune to any military action from the regime or its allies.

However, even though Abbara sees the diplomatic moves and statements between the two countries as a sign of a shared desire for a political pacification, he does not exclude the intention of Russia to bring back all Syrian regions, including northern Aleppo, to the grip of the Syrian regime.

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